A DUDLEY mental health charity has made a plea for more face to face help for desperate people as demands for support rocket during lockdown.

Dudley MIND have seen calls to their support line triple and they have now extended it to midnight, with many pleas for help coming in at night and over the weekends.

But while Covid has led to a surge in people seeking support for a range of mental health issues, the health service and other organisations have halted or sharply cut back on face to face support.

But Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust insist the are 'very much open for business', including face to face hekp.

The problem is highlighted by one Stourbridge woman who fears her physical health is being damaged by her inability to be able to sit down with someone to talk through her issues.

The woman, aged 33, who has asked only to be referred to by her first name, Natalie, has Asperger’s Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and suffers from depression and anxiety.

She has been on medication since the age of 14 but it has meant her weight ballooning by more than five stone.

This year she was taken off medication and was due to start cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling, but it was suddenly halted when the first lockdown was brought in.

She accepts that decision, but is now angry that months later not only has she had no face to face support since, she is being told there is no likelihood of getting any in the foreseeable future.

“The only help I have been offered is over the phone and it does not work for me. My mental health is going through the roof.

“I have been left crying to the doctor. I’ve had to go back on the medication, with all the side effects. I feel abandoned by the NHS.

“Surely arrangements could be made for people to sit apart, maybe in a secluded garden area. I need counselling.”

Dudley MIND Chief Executive Sandra Vaughan believes there is a vital need for more face to face help and that it can be allowed under the guidelines because it is a therapy.

MIND are continuing with face to face sessions, under strict distancing and hygiene conditions, but say they know many other organisations have ‘mothballed’ them.

“There is a higher risk of suicide since Covid.

“We took a huge number of calls in the first lockdown. Although that’s tapered off the calls we are getting now are worst case scenarios. People are really struggling and they can’t see an end to it.

“It’s really worrying. We are not just talking about impact on quality of life, we are talking about potential loss of life.”

A new service from MIND is a band of trained volunteers who make daily phone calls to struggling people to build up a relationship.

Chief Operating Officer at Black Country Healthcare NHS said: “Through the Covid-19 pandemic, we have continued to treat our patients both face to face and virtually, depending on their individual needs.

“Wee would encourage anyone who needs extra support during these difficult times to make contact with us."

More information can be found at www.blackcountryhealthcare.nhs.uk

MIND can be contacted on 01384 442938.